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NFL Black Monday head coach Primer: NFC North

It’s onto the NFC North for our look at the state of front offices. Some folks have already been canned. Not more will follow AFC North | AFC East | AFC South | AFC West |  NFC East

We’re going to go around the league, looking at each division and seeing what vacancies could open up for Black Monday. Chances are, there won’t be any in Santa Clara, but a coach could bail to fill one of the vacancies elsewhere. Today, we have the NFC North.

Now we’re getting to the competitive divisions. The NFC North was on lock-down with the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers dominating things, but times have changed. The Minnesota Vikings have emerged, as have the Chicago Bears. There’s going to be one opening for sure, and it already happened with none other than the Packers. Beyond that development, the NFC North went on it’s hiring blitz last year and most teams don’t fire their head coach in one season unless things go horribly, horribly wrong. That’s not the case with the North.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers started cleaning house before season’s end by showing Mike McCarthy the door. Assistant coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss was handed a pink slip next. The job would be attractive for an offensive minded coach getting the chance to work with Aaron Rodgers, but the rest of the roster outside of a few positions is “meh” at best. The Packers have a lot of work to do to get back to championship form and having Rodgers has masked a lot of their issues (good quarterbacks tend to do that).

There’s also the issue of Rodgers having a hand in McCarthy’s firing and a voice in the hiring process of the new head coach. So far those appear to be rumors.

McCarthy’s playcalling was his ultimate undoing as was the underachieving squad he once had. The Packers made it to the playoffs because their division was bad. Now that both the Vikings and Bears have rebuilt teams for playoff pushes, the gap between the Packers and the rest of the division has narrowed. One thing to keep in mind, McCarthy’s system was something Rodgers thrived in. How will he do in a new offensive system? Or is he playing the Aaron Rodgers system the whole time?

There was a shakeup last year in the front office with Brian Gutekunst getting promoted to general manager at the start of 2018. The Packers love stability, both with coaches and front office personnel. Given the infancy of Gutekunst’s tenure and McCarthy’s exit, don’t expect any more firings.

Who has been fired: Mike McCarthy, Winston Moss
Who should have been fired: Mike McCarthy
Who else will get fired: Nobody

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have stability with head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman has made one of the deepest rosters in the league. The Vikings may be struggling for a wild card spot in 2018, but one year of struggling for playoffs when you’ve won the division two of the last three years does not merit getting fired. Especially when this staff is what made Minnesota relevant in the first place.

Well, except for their offensive coordinator. John DeFilippo was fired Tuesday after several inept games where the offense turned in numbers not near expectations. To add more insult to injury, the Vikings paid Kirk Cousins a lot of money. Money to not just get to the playoffs, but win the Super Bowl, and if anyone watched the Monday Night Football game against the Seattle Seahawks, you know that performance Cousins turned in may take them to the last seed in the playoffs at-best and is not a good return on the investment made.

And that’s been the biggest problem. The one ding against the Vikings is their inability to draft and develop a franchise quarterback. They tried with Teddy Bridgewater, but injuries ended that idea. They have Cousins, and the jury is still out on if that was a good signing given the contract, because Case Keenum played better in a Vikings uniform than Cousins did.

That said, there’s no way the Vikings fire anyone else in that building.

Who has been fired: John DeFilippo

Who else should/will get fired: Nobody

Detroit Lions

The Lions have some potential. They still need a running game, but they have potential. In the offseason they managed to pry Matt Patricia from his defensive coordinator post with the New England Patriots and install him as their next head coach. Patricia’s first year as head coach has had some highs, like dominating his former team. Then there’s lows, like his past coming back to haunt him.

Last year, I said the Lions needed a running game. This’s improved? I guess? They are ranked 25th in total offense per Pro Football reference and their rushing numbers are ranked 23rd. In 2017, their offense was ranked seventh overall and their rushing was ranked dead last. So progress, in that weird double-edged sword way. The defense has improved, going from 21st in 2017 to 19th in 2018.

OK, trying to guess what’s improved and not with this team is an exercise in frustration, but they had a lot of pieces needed, like an offensive line and a coach. Given that Matt Patricia hasn’t been awful as a head coach (despite that Monday Night Football debacle to start the season) there’s not enough here to fire him after one year.

On the other hand, Bob Quinn could be in a hot seat. He was the one who decided to hire Patricia and given his hire in 2016, it might be a safer assumption that when/if he’s fired, Patricia goes with him so the Lions can wipe the slate. He’s got one more year, and if Patricia’s team continues to take these steps backwards, they’ll show him the door too. Not this year.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Chicago Bears

Look what happens when you give who may be the best defensive coordinator in the league, Vic Fangio, a demon pass rusher. The Bears made the trade for Khalil Mack and Fangio’s defense has been an army of darkness for opposing offenses.

49ers fans know this all too well because Fangio coached some of the better defenses in team history when he worked under Jim Harbaugh. On the other side of the ball, the Bears hired Matt Nagy as head coach to help develop quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in his second year. If Trubisky is a bust is yet to be determined, but he’s got a bit of that Jay Cutler, dial-a-turnover magic with 12 interceptions (two picks in one game is rather frequent) and three more games to go. What Trubisky has shown has still been progress under Nagy. Is Nagy the answer? It’s his first season and the Bears are headed to the playoffs, so it’s going to take a couple years to evaluate and decide after the season he’s having in 2018. It is Nagy’s inaugural season and he’s got them a game away from clinching the division.

General Manager Ryan Pace isn’t going anywhere either. Not after he scored the trade of the century in Khalil Mack. Sure, he did that trade with the 49ers in the 2017 draft, but Mack all but makes up for it. Pace should have been fired to start 2018, but Mack has saved his job. Let’s see where this goes.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody